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A Disappointing Hero's Quest

Fans of the poem and film might be able to overlook Beowulf's flaws, including bad artificial intelligence.
Fans of the poem and film might be able to overlook Beowulf's flaws, including bad artificial intelligence. (Ubisoft/ign.com)

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Ubisoft's video game Beowulf overlaps with the film's story but explores the 30-year period glossed over in the original poem and in the film's screenplay.

Although fans of the movie will want to jump into this gory extension of the mythology, consider renting this game instead of buying. It shows signs of being rushed to release, and gameplay was sacrificed. The result is an adventure that can be more taxing than fun.

The heart of the game is old-fashioned, repetitive button-mashing. Beowulf and his army of thanes (which grows as you become more powerful) hack, slash and rip apart soldiers, monsters and trolls during the game's eight hours of story. The blood flows freely, but there's little depth and no replay value. A few variations break up the monotony, including an "action booster," a rhythm-based game that's required to move large objects or row a boat around rocks.

Shoddy artificial intelligence makes Beowulf challenging, but not in a good way: Your army dies for stupid reasons. If you don't revive soldiers in time, the game is over. Should Beowulf's right-hand man, Wiglaf, die, it's game over. Routinely, the linear game presents divergent paths that stop at dead ends, requiring you to backtrack and find the other way. It's also easy to get stuck at various points because of poor level design.

Despite its many flaws, the game will attract fans who want to know what happened to Beowulf during those 30 years. This game offers an explanation -- it just takes perseverance to make it to the end.

-- John Gaudiosi

Beowulf: The Game Mature; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($60); PC ($50) Ubisoft Beowulf: The Game Mature; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($60); PC ($50) Ubisoft


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